Author Archives: Caroline Pidgeon

Caroline Pidgeon writes…What has gone wrong with Crossrail?

I don’t know what the Queen is doing today.

However, I know for certain what she is not doing.

Many months ago it was agreed that Crossrail (the Elizabeth Line) would officially be opened by the Queen today.

The Elizabeth Line, will cover 100 km from Reading and Maidenhead to the west of the capital and Heathrow, through new tunnels under Central London to Woolwich and Abbey Wood in the south-east of the city and Shenfield in Essex.

It will transform rail transport in London and the surrounding region, increasing passenger capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times across the capital. It will, when finally open, deliver wonderful new trains, 200 metres long, the same length as two football pitches. It will also deliver 10 new stations and key improvements to many others, making all the stations on the route step-free and therefore accessible for everyone.

Yet, sadly all these benefits have been put on hold, while the cost of completing it (and lost passenger income for Transport for London) simply soars.

The costs of completing the project were already escalating earlier this year, but then on the 31 August, barely three months before the official opening of the line, it was suddenly announced that its actual opening date would be sometime in ‘Autumn’ 2019.   We still have no exact revised opening date.

For a project to be delayed, by such a magnitude and so close to its official opening, is quite incredible.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes…Boris Johnson: Has the mask slipped?

Boris Johnson seems to be rarely out of the news.

Whether it is his comments about the burka or taking part in a photo opp mocking Theresa May’s running through fields of corn – there seems an insatiable media interest in him.

And if he puts forward a proposal, such as building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, his comments are extensively reported, irrespective of how feasible the policy is.

His treatment by the media is unlike almost any other politician, past or present.

His profile, combined with his immense ambition, has even fed speculation that he will one day be the Prime Minister.

However, could it be the case that his mask has now fallen off?   That perhaps some people are seeing him for what he really is?

That might seem a startling claim but there are some signs that this might be the case.  

Take for example all the media hype about his attendance at the Conservative party conference. 

The reality is that his base within the Conservative party, especially amongst those that know him best (Conservative MPs) is diminishing.

As the respected political commentator Paul Waugh said:

“He just can’t help himself, but can he help his party?

“Boris Johnson’s scripted spontaneity achieved his aim of dominating the headlines for much of the week.  Yet in the process he has alienated many of the key selectorate he needs to win round more than any other: Tory MPs.

“True, he has a small, loyal band that includes newer backbenchers like Ben Bradley and Andrea Jenkyns, plus slightly older hands like Conor Burns. That won’t be enough to get on the ballot paper in any future leadership contest.”

The views of his former boss at the Daily Telegraph are also worth noting:

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

Why Heathrow deserves a more thorough debate

It is now August and a good time to reflect, especially on those issues which have received insufficient attention.

Although Brexit has understandably dominated politics for many months, it is worth noting that just six weeks ago Parliament made the decision to back a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The vote – by 415 to 119 – approved the National Planning Statement (NPS) that paves the way for the £14 billion construction project. Peers did not get a vote.

Some people, whatever their past thoughts on the pros and cons of a third Heathrow runway, might think that the issue has now been …

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Brexit demands greater devolution – a new deal for our regions

Back in 2013 I wrote an article for Lib Dem Voice setting out the case for London and other cities to have more financial control.

The vote to leave the EU makes the case for devolution and fiscal devolution more urgent. Whatever Leave voters felt they were voting for, it was not ‘business as usual’. It was not an endorsement of centralised power, simply removing it from Brussels to Whitehall and job done.

The referendum result not only affects the country as a whole but also within our nations, regions and cities.  The uncertainties from Brexit may well be better managed at a local level, with local and regional government able to respond more effectively.

At present, virtually all taxation in the UK is determined by central government. Only council tax (and in England from April 2013, a proportion of business rates) can be seen as local taxation – and even this is subject to cumbersome controls, including referendum rules set by central Government.  When you compare this internationally you realise what control Whitehall holds.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Boris Johnson’s foolishness and arrogance in purchasing water cannon

This week Sadiq Khan revealed that three redundant water cannon, bought controversially by his predecessor, are to be put up for sale, with the proceeds going towards helping to tackle gang crime.

It is a decision I totally endorse and welcome.

Back in 2014 Boris Johnson decided to purchase three second hand water cannon from Germany.  We now discover that £322,834 of taxpayers’ money has been spent by the Met Police on purchasing these 25 year old vehicles, and then transporting, fitting out and repairing the machines.

The scale of the foolishness, and quite frankly arrogance, in purchasing these water cannon is hard to underestimate.

For a start these water cannon were purchased before authorisation was given for their use by the Home Secretary.  After they had been purchased consideration of permitting authorisation of their use was undertaken by the then Home Secretary.  It was firmly refused.  On this issue Theresa May showed immense thoroughness in carefully examining the merits for and against the adoption of water cannon.  Her statement to the House of Commons on the 15th July 2015 is an example of a Home Secretary acting in a truly professional way.  The Hansard record is well worth a read.

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Say goodbye to the EU and say goodbye to the benefits of the European Investment Bank

What has the European Union ever done for us, is one of those questions which most Liberal Democrats have no hesitation in answering – from cleaner beaches to reduced roaming charges for mobile phone users

However, one example that sadly receives little attention is the record of the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Now banking might seem rather dry, indeed rather boring for many people. However, when it comes to the EIB its benefits do need to be heard.

I was first alerted to how significant its lending was when I read the papers going to the Transport for London (TfL) Board last …

Posted in Op-eds | 6 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes…This is a “microwave” budget from Osborne

This is a ‘microwave’ budget from George Osborne. He has just re-heated many announcements already made.

Some announcements can be welcomed – albeit cautiously at this stage as we haven’t seen the precise detail. Devolution of Business Rates and the proposals for financing infrastructure projects from land value increases are things the Liberal Democrats have long argued for.

Those of us in London had already been told last week that Crossrail 2 was going ahead and that there would be a need for Londoners to match fund the development costs. The increase in the share of business rates retained by London will help fund this vital new project, but a £1.9billion cut in TfL funds, as a result of Sadiq Khan’s fares policy, puts at risk important investment in London’s future transport needs.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes… Action, not rhetoric, on knife crime

When it comes to knife crime there appears to be two default settings that most Westminster politicians adopt.

The first is to turn a blind eye to the issue for large periods of time.

For example in London during the six week General Election period, 26th March to 8th May, there were 789 victims of serious youth violence, 1,231 victims of knife crime and 441 victims of knife crime with injury.  That’s 40 a day.

Yet despite these figures the issue was almost entirely ignored.   Few politicians campaigned on the issue or wanted to talk about it.

The second position for Westminster politicians is to suddenly take a very short term interest, but to be totally obsessed with the idea that ‘fixed term’ sentences are the only solution.   

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House of Lords has a chance to stand up for democracy

 

Today’s vote in the House of Lords on tax credits has rightly attracted much media attention, but tomorrow a further vote on the subject of electoral registration also deserves serious attention.

In an act of immense arrogance the Government is planning to ignore the clear advice of the independent Electoral Commission and remove hundreds of thousands of people from the electoral register by the end of the year, a full year earlier than originally set out in the current legislation.  Young people and people living in private rented accommodation will be disproportionately affected by the Government’s proposals.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes…Why open government is good government and why it is time to defend the freedom of information act

The announcement this Summer that Ministers are now seeking to ‘review’ the freedom of information act had a most depressing ring to it.

For a start any fundamental review of freedom of information (FOI) legislation is hardly necessary. Just three years ago the cross party House of Commons Justice Committee, chaired by Alan Beith, carried out an extensive investigation into the operations of the Act.  It reported that: “The Freedom of Information Act has been a significant enhancement of our democracy. Overall our witnesses agreed that the Act was working well. The right to access information has improved openness, transparency and accountability.”

Few pieces of legislation get that kind of endorsement.

Indeed the Justice Committee not only defended the Act but also highlighted where it should be strengthened. For example it criticised public authorities that kick requests into the long grass by holding interminable internal reviews.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes… URGENT! Five minutes of your time could help ensure firearm licence fee changes in 2015

Feeling slightly restless between Christmas and New Year?  Are you one of those people who just can’t keep away from their computer or device? Fed up of the constant emails about sales?!

Well if your answer yes to any of these questions – and the fact that you are even reading this article suggest you might – then I have a suggestion for something to do.

Why not quickly complete a Home Office consultation on the issues of firearm licence fees?

Yes you read that correctly.

The consultation ends at the very end of Monday 29th December (I didn’t set the deadline!) so it really is now or never.

The issue, as I raised back in an article in August, is that the cost of a five-year licence for a firearm, has now been frozen for more than 13 years.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 11 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon AM writes… Why subsidising gun owners must come to an end

Today is the “Glorious Twelfth” which is the start of the shooting season, especially of Grouse.

I would suggest today, of all days, is a good day to look at the issue of why people who own guns are actually subsidised by the taxpayer.

From the outset, let me put a few points on record, on what I know is an incredibly emotive issue.

Firstly, I don’t shoot or have any desire to do so, but secondly I understand just how important shooting is throughout the UK for some people, with a recent report suggesting that at least 600,000 people in the UK shoot live quarry, clay pigeons or targets.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 46 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon AM writes: In praise of Freedom of Information legislation

Parliament ActsTony Blair’s latest comments about Iraq, seeking to defend his disastrous actions back in 2003, have generated extensive media coverage.  However, there are other views expressed by Tony Blair which also deserve attention, most notably his incredible views over freedom of information.

But, before examining his comments lets go back 20 years or so.

For some people it might be hard to remember how Government departments and public bodies often operated.  Holding onto vast amounts of information, however mundane or non-controversial, was considered totally appropriate by most Government departments, quangos and local …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes… Power to the people – why conference paper has my backing

Last July I wrote a piece for Lib Dem Voice about devolving powers to London and other large cities. My article was drawing attention to a report published last summer called Raising the Capital (pdf). This report had been produced by the London Finance Commission, an authoritative and wide ranging group of experts from both inside and outside politics, and crucially including experts from Birmingham and Manchester and chaired by the highly respected Professor Travers of the London School of Economics.

The report highlighted that barely seven per cent of all the tax paid by …

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Caroline Pidgeon writes: Making our roads safer for everyone

Yesterday was World Day of Remembrance of Road Traffic Victims.

After the events of recent weeks such a day has incredible significance this year. Just at the weekend a cyclist was killed in Bath in a hit and run accident. And now just minutes ago I have heard that yet another cyclist has died in a crash with a lorry in London.

In less than two weeks the capital has seen six cyclists killed – with today’s latest fatality the number of cyclists already killed matches the total figure for 2012. I …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes: Setting our cities free from the stranglehold of the Treasury

City Hall and Tower BridgeReforming local government finance – a phrase that is enough to send many of us to sleep.  But put a different way, devolving financial powers to our great cities, allowing local innovation and genuine localism, may keep your interest for longer!

May saw the launch of an excellent policy report called Raising the capital.  The report was produced by the London Finance Commission, an authoritative wide ranging group of experts from both inside and outside politics, but crucially including experts from Birmingham and Manchester.  The commission was chaired by respected Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Ban on wheel clamping on private land coming into force in England and Wales today

I spend most of my time arguing for our roads to be made safer and more attractive for cyclists and pedestrians and making the case for improvements in public transport.

However, reducing car traffic and making our towns and cities more attractive for local residents does not mean defending indefensible practices against motorists.

From today one of the worst injustices facing motorists has been ended, with a ban on wheel clamping on private land coming into

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

All Aboard! One hour bus campaign moves up a gear

Tomorrow Brian Paddick  and I are boarding our first campaign bus together, and what better way to celebrate than using it to launch our great One Hour Bus Ticket policy.

We’ll be travelling round eight London boroughs informing residents that the Lib Dems are dedicated to targeting fare reductions at those Londoners who need them most. Our Fairer Fares package proposes six ways to save, one of which is a One Hour Bus Ticket that will allow people to hop-on and hop-off buses as many times as needed within one hour, paying only one single fare.

The scheme works successfully in several …

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London Liberal Democrats – helping those with the smallest pockets get to work

Last week Brian Paddick and I launched a fairer fares package ahead of this year’s London Mayoral and Assembly elections.

Boris Johnson has been Mayor of London since 2008. In just four years he has increased the cheapest bus fare from 90p to £1.35 – and he had planned to raise fares even further until the Coalition Government stepped in and helped limit the rise. As well as bus fares, the cost of travelling on the Tube, the Docklands Light Railway, the Croydon Tramlink and the London Overground have all soared under Mr Johnson’s mayoralty.

Of course there …

Posted in London and News | Tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Conservative walk-outs stop debate

Storming out of a town hall or Assembly chamber in protest is not something I would generally recommend – although in extreme cases there is a case for doing so as I found out earlier this year.

However walking out and knowing that you will stop all business is a very different matter, yet this is what is now taking place at City Hall on a very regular basis. In the last year there have been several occasions when the whole Conservative Group has just got up and left halfway through meetings of the London Assembly, when they don’t agree …

Posted in Local government and London | 9 Comments

Peddling myths over London’s bike hire scheme

In London one of the most exciting developments this year has been the long awaited launch of the bike hire scheme.

Despite its launch being associated with quite a number of problems – including a highly complex registration process, and a number of cyclists being overcharged – no one can deny that the scheme is proving incredibly popular.  And let’s be realistic, no major scheme ever starts without at least some minor teething problems. Of course I will be chasing hard until these glitches are resolved, and they certainly …

Posted in Local government and London | Tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Opinion: Countdown to 2012 has already started

Harold Wilson’s phrase that a week is a long time in politics was never more true than the dramatic developments that took place last week.

The creation of a new Government, with Liberal Democrats at the heart of it and with so many of our policies built into the coalition agreement, has quite rightly dominated the media. I am sure these events will not easily be forgotten by many Liberal Democrats.

Against such as background it is far from surprising that changes that have taken place in town halls across London and at City Hall have not received a huge amount of …

Posted in Local government, London and Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment

How long can Boris Johnson carry on defending the indefensible?

Caroline Pidgeon is a Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and member of the London Fire Emergency and Planning Authority (LFEPA)

Walking out of a meeting as a protest is something I would not normally recommend, but last week I felt had no other option and left a key budget meeting of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA). Both the Lib Dem leader on the Fire Authority, Councillor Ed Butcher from Haringey, and I knew we had to make a protest at the decision of the Conservative Chair Brian Coleman to prohibit TV cameras from filming the meeting, and Coleman’s decision to …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

The grit in the Oyster

London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon sets out how the Mayor of London’s approach to problems with the London Oyster travelcard is a demonstration of Boris Johnsons wider approach to addressing issues that face Londoners:

This week at City Hall I was accused by Boris Johnson of being a “negative Liberal Democrat” when I dared to question him over some of the problems that have happened as a result of the extension of Oyster Pay as You Go to national rail services across London.

Well I stand by my questioning of the Mayor as there is no …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

London Underground: should lines be completely shut to speed up engineering work?

The London Underground is used by as many people each week as the total number of people who use the nation’s railway network. Caroline Pidgeon sets out why modernising the underground is so important and why new ways of undertaking the upgrades might now be necessary.

At London’s City Hall I’m leading an Assembly investigation into overcrowding on the Tube and what Mayor Boris Johnson can do about it. For many years now Tube passengers have been used to cramming themselves into crowded trains wedged against someone’s armpits. More recently stations like Victoria, King’s Cross, London Bridge and Holborn have had …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 8 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarexpats 10th Dec - 4:19pm
    Bercow has just given the government a lesson in parliamentary protocol and good manners (he spoke slowly and clearly as if to a class of...
  • User AvatarMark Smulian 10th Dec - 3:58pm
    This TfL press release, issued since Caroline made her posting, throws some light into previous dark corners: https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/press-releases/2018/december/new-financing-agreement-confirmed-for-crossrail-proje
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 10th Dec - 3:48pm
    The temptation must be to use a people's vote for political reasons again instead of a genuine desire for it. It shows again that we...
  • User AvatarRobin Bennett 10th Dec - 3:21pm
    Fiona The points you make are old hat. They are spurious, irrelevant or insignificant to those who believe that after independence there would be a...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 10th Dec - 3:07pm
    I see Vince is calling for a Vote of No Confidence in May. I do not understand the strategy of this man. If he gets...
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 10th Dec - 3:07pm
    If parliament now dictates what happens, we have to trust it and that leaves everything in the air though better than the government in control....